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“We’ve got to see any and all opinions before the vote” on the nomination, Mr. Wyden said.

He also called for the legal opinions to be made public so that Americans could judge for themselves the exact extent of the authority President Obama asserts to kill U.S. citizens without charge or trial if they are senior al Qaeda leaders who cannot be captured.

“What it really goes to is the issue of checks and balances,” he said.

Mr. King asked Mr. Brennan to allow the judicial branch to oversee targeted killings of U.S. citizens, as it authorized intelligence surveillance against Americans, through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court — a secret tribunal that grants warrants for the electronic and physical surveillance of Americans suspected of espionage or terrorism.

“I would like to suggest to you that you consider a FISA court-type process, where an American citizen is going to be targeted for a lethal strike,” Mr. King told Mr. Brennan.

“At least that would be some check,” Mr. King said. “I have great confidence in you. I have great confidence in President Obama. But all the lessons of history are, it shouldn’t matter who’s in charge, because we should have procedures and processes in place that will protect us.”

Some Republicans asked Mr. Brennan whether the administration’s expanded use of the lethal strikes by remotely piloted drone aircraft grew from its decision to abjure the capture, detention and harsh interrogation techniques employed by the Bush administration.

“Is your testimony today that the huge increase in the number of lethal strikes has no connection to the change in the Obama administration’s detention policy?” said Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican. “Because obviously, if we’re capturing a terrorist, we have the opportunity to interrogate that individual and perhaps learn of ongoing plots. But if the strike is done, that opportunity is lost.”

“There’s never been occasion that I’m aware of where we had the opportunity to capture a terrorist and we didn’t and we decided to take a lethal strike,” replied Mr. Brennan. “So certainly there is no correlation there.”

He added that the expanding use of drones was in part a result of “the maturation of capabilities and insights into [al Qaeda] plots as a result of the investment that was made in the previous administration.”

Other Republicans focused on questioning Mr. Brennan about administration leaks to the media.

“I engaged in discussions with reporters about classified issues that they might have had access to because of unfortunate leaks of classified information, and I frequently work with reporters, if not editors of newspapers, to keep out of the public domain some of this country’s most important secrets,” Mr. Brennan said.

“Whenever I deal with reporters, I do so at the request of the White House press office and they set the ground rules,” he said.

He said that he voluntary cooperated with the Department of Justice investigation into the leak of information about a double agent inside al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who helped U.S. and allied agencies foil an underwear bomb plot.

Mr. Brennan said he had “been interviewed on it” and his office turned over “all relevant materials,” including any notes of the conference call.

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